Mistake # 1 Not approaching the job search as a systematic process
Instead of setting up a system or a plan, people normally run around like chickens with their heads cut off, doing random things. I did the same thing. For example this is how it typically goes: Scouring the job boards & job sites, applying for as many postings that look sort of good, is the first thing people will do (It was the first thing I did, too.) Then maybe talk to a recruiter or two (I did this, too.) Then maybe scour LinkedIn for people they know that could help, then look for people to cold message, while still relentlessly keeping their eyes glued to the job boards. Then maybe go to a networking event…
When all that stuff still isn’t working, they feel like they’re not doing enough. So they put pressure on themselves to apply for more jobs, talk to more people and do it faster and do more of it. Then when that’s still not working they start to feel bad about themselves and self confidence starts to wain. What more can they do?, they think to themselves. They feel like it’s their fault, they’re not good enough and maybe they are just meant to be working at Starbucks or Banana Republic for the rest of their lives after all. Stop that right now.
This is called RANT: Random Acts of Non Productive Tasks
My friend and former colleague, Josephine, was going through exactly this and in the end she landed her dream job through a mutual connection. So all of her efforts doing all of the above things were essentially wasted time. Don’t make this mistake. Strategic connections and investing your time in strategic networking is where your success is most likely to come from, and it will be higher success than the people applying on the job boards by far. I’ve built my career around this principle, seen countless people do this (and interviewed them, taken notes of all their secrets) and helped countless others leverage this same amazing strategy.
Doing more (applying for more jobs, filling out more online applications, sending out more LinkedIn messages) does not always equal better. It can actually equal a lot worse, because what people don’t take into consideration is the long-term effects on their motivation, their self esteem and their overall beliefs about themselves.
Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity and that’s what we do because we think we have no other choice.
What I want you to do is: Go onto your linkedin and find 10 people you’d like to set up a coffee meeting with. Then Download the guide to networking (using the yellow bar buttons you’ll see throughout this post) and I’ll explain how to message them and what to say.
Mistake # 2 Going down the ‘Rabbit hole’ of bad career advice
Generic. When I ask most people what they find when they google career advice (and having googled it myself), it comes down to advice that is too generic. Advice that applies to anyone, advice that is common sense. I have seen people obsess over the font, and the size, and phrases on their resume. Buzzword after buzz-sentence, like ‘results oriented professional with a bottom line orientation.’ That could mean everything, or it could mean nothing. Most people have at least one phrase similar to that one on their resume, a phrase we’ve all heard before. Obsessing over your resume won’t help because what most people don’t realize is that the resume is only a small piece of the whole puzzle.
Advice from cookie cutter government agencies comes from the same place. It is 90% about formatting a resume, what font size to use or what buzzwords to use. The process is broken. It may work eventually but it’s not for those people who want to do better than the 90% of people listening to it. This advice may help you to do okay…but do you really just want to do okay? The fact is, most people aren’t very skilled at successful job-hunting, so to stand out you only have to be slightly better than most people.
What do you do, then? You need a solid plan that will take you from point A to point B. A solid, clear path will give you confidence that you’re doing the right things and you know your next steps.
It all starts with reaching out to the right people.
Mistake # 3 Letting the fear of ‘closing doors’ stop you in your tracks
Have you ever said to someone, “Let me know if you hear of anything,” when you want them to give you a heads up if they find a job opportunity they think you may be good at? I knew a guy who would relentlessly go around saying, “Let me know if you hear of anything.” He’d say this to the same people multiple times and he’d say it to anyone and everyone he talked to. I started hearing from mutual friends that they were getting annoyed and would actually start avoiding him. Why? I asked. Because they
couldn’t help him. They had no good news for him and they didn’t really know what to do with his requests. What he was essentially saying was, “I’ll do anything, let me know if you hear of ANYTHING, from ANYONE, EVER!” I’m desperate! Please help me! This was really starting to turn people off. That’s why the first part of your success is going to include getting clear on what it is that you are looking for. Even if that changes (that’s fine) it needs to be defined for people to be able to help you.
For example, if you said, “I’m looking for a Marketing Events Coordinator position in the Bay Area,” (like my friend Josephine was), with this information, people’s ears perk up, their mind automatically starts thinking of people they know in that space, companies they know that may need such skills, or people who they can introduce you to, specific people. It’s a completely different thought process. People are pretty accustomed to hearing “Let me know if you hear of anything,” and it normally washes over like water off a duck’s back. So be specific with what you’re looking for and let the conversations flow into much more productive and actionable roads to the opportunities that you want to open up.
By not deciding, not choosing, not being willing to brand yourself definitively, you’re yelling out at a crowd of people who are paying no attention to you and you’ll never hear back. (Trust me, I did it for a while before I realized, what’s even the point of this?)
I want you to get clear on what you want to do. Choose 3 job titles that you think might be right for you. If your’e already clear then gold star for you! By getting clear, instead of saying “let me know if you hear of anything” You can say “I’m looking for a job in desktop publishing in the bay area for a small – medium sized company” Do you know anyone who I may be able to speak to? This is great for two reasons: 1) It sticks in the person’s head (they will remember this because it’s a unique specific thing) 2) The brain immediately starts scanning through for people who may be a good fit to speak with you, anyone who they know will come to mind either immediately or later on, and BOOM then they think of you.
Mistake # 5 Accepting the process as is, when there is so much more going on that we don’t see.
The game being played around us is summed up by the 80% of jobs that aren’t posted and that people are getting offers for every day. Sometimes only one person will walk in for an interview, and that one person will get the job. That was me 3 times over. No other interviews will be conducted, just that one person who knew the right person was introduced to someone who needed something and, voila! A job offer ensued. No one else ever had the chance to even apply for it.
When the company I worked for went under in April 2014 and 73 people were out of work, I had a manager who had some really old-fashioned beliefs during my time working for that company. After we were all over the shock of the company shutting down, my former manager and I kept in touch, and, quite frankly, we’d gossip about the other people we had worked with. We’d talk about the jobs they had got, or didn’t get. Our LinkedIn profile activity blew up right after word got out that the company had shut down. More profile views, people posting their new jobs, or just updating their headline with “Seeking new opportunities.” We were also ALL keeping tabs on the job boards like rats on crack, checking them every chance we could to see if anything new in our area had come up. I remember refreshing the search to see if anything had changed, but normally it was just the same old stuff because I’d checked it so many times, lol.
There was one girl we worked with in the HR department, who we noticed got a job at a popular gaming company in town. No one had seen the job she had gotten posted before, probably because it had never got to that point (trust me, we would have seen it,) so we made our assumptions. My assumption was that she either contacted the company at the right time and they happened to need someone with her skill set and she was able to get a meeting due to impeccable timing, OR, more likely, she knew someone there who introduced her and they created a position for her. Or maybe it was a bit of both.
My old-fashioned manager’s assumption had a bit of a different spin to it. She said something more along the lines of, “No one else even had a chance to apply for that job! I know for a fact that there are people way better for it than her, I could name just a few!” She was bitter and maybe a bit angry at the ‘unfairness’ that, in her mind, had taken place.
I thought: good for her! How can I learn from her? How can I figure out what she did so I can be that person who gets that job next time? I didn’t think of how unfair it was or wasn’t, because it is just what happened, it was the reality of the world, let’s not get angry about it, let’s de-code it and use it! A great mentor once said to me ‘Focus on the things that you can actually control.’ So that’s what I did. In my case I had seen someone do something that worked for them, and I found out what it was and how it was done. She makes a lot of money now, she works for a great company and she’s still there 2+ years later. Good for her! She got hired a week after our company died. I interviewed her along with other co-workers who seemed to have some great ‘luck’ in getting successful jobs quickly!
I discovered that this happens EVERY DAY. Yet so many of us are still scouring job boards that normally lead to nowhere because thousands of others are scouring job boards, too. The light bulbs in my head were coming on, putting together the facts that connections are where it’s at. Connections, and the side- and back-door techniques that some people have already mastered and are benefiting from: these are the tickets to get where you want to go, and fast. Whereas so many of us are so unaware, we’re just sitting around, waiting for a response from a job posting while others are out talking to people who can further their careers from one day to the next. Where do you want to be?
Ask yourself, am I blindly believing or going along with something that isn’t really working anymore? Or am I questioning it for what it’s worth and pushing myself outside the box where I need to be?
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